With a hint of East Coast sophistication combined with the characteristic warmth of the South, the historic Uptown home of Christa and Matt Schwartz and their three young daughters is an evolving project that fits the family's busy lifestyle.
Christa, a Pennsylvania native, met Matt while attending Tulane University's A.B. Freeman School of Business in the late '90s. Upon graduation, the couple moved to New York City to pursue their respective careers, but the Crescent City kept luring them back for work, especially as the city was rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures.
Matt, a real estate developer with Domain Companies, was spending so much time in New Orleans that in 2006 he purchased a company apartment. Back in New York, Christa worked at a major international architecture firm before deciding to obtain a degree in interior design from the prestigious The New School at Parsons School of Design.
While completing her studies, she met another Christa — Christa Frey, a like-minded student. The duo launched a boutique design firm called STUDIO Interior Design, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary. The company maintains studios in both New York and New Orleans; from these two cities, Frey and Christa Schwartz pursue a range of commercial and residential projects including high-rise buildings, vacation homes, residences and restaurants that bring them around the country.
"We both have an eye for a modern, clean aesthetic," Schwartz explains. "That's where the heart of our business is." She says she is inspired by international designers Kelly Wearstler and Christian Liaigre, both known for their modern, luxurious aesthetics.
Christa and Matt have impressive portfolios; one of his most notable recent projects included the Ace Hotel development. Christa recently collaborated with other artists to finish out The Shop at the Contemporary Arts Center.
After five years of bouncing back and forth for work, the Schwartzes decided to relocate to New Orleans permanently in 2011. The same philosophies Schwartz brings to her clients are reflected in her family's Federal-style home, which was built in the mid-1800s. She says it was a challenge to update the look. Her goal, she says, was to "create a comfortable and contemporary space for my family."
"The aesthetic here is much different than in New York," she says. "A lot of the projects I work on up there are super modern and sleek." Still, she managed to blend this style seamlessly into the family's home as they adapted to a different pace of life. There was no need to shy away from light colors in the updates because she chose commercially rated and washable fabrics for the upholstery, to make cleaning a breeze. "I always have fabrics and floor coverings stain guarded prior to installation," she says.
Schwartz says they were "excited about the idea of raising our family in a city with such a dynamic cultural landscape."
The location of the home allows the family to maintain a walkable and convenient lifestyle in an area with retail spots, restaurants and other local businesses just steps away.
"This was a determining factor when moving from Manhattan," Schwartz says. "It was a carefully considered decision."
The previous owners of the two-story home commissioned extensive renovations, enlarging the kitchen and adding bedrooms. The Schwartzes also made several changes since moving in five years ago. They scaled back on some of the ornate, antique features and faux finishes and updated light fixtures and fireplaces for a contemporary look that complements the 150-year-old structure. The family also had a swimming pool installed and is gearing up for another round of renovations. They plan to gut the second floor and update the kitchen.
Christa has filled the home with art and treasures from many New Orleans shops and vendors, including Dry Goods on Magazine Street. Additionally, she says, "Glen Armand Furniture has built a number of custom furniture pieces and millwork for my projects. I also love to see everything happening at Katie Koch Home." She loves to shop at and work with Perch, an interior design and home goods store.
Christa says she wants the home to have an inviting and "sunny" vibe that reflects the city's vibrant atmosphere.
The Schwartzes frequently entertain friends on weekends. "We have a steady flow of visitors," Christa says. The family especially likes to entertain guests on the covered back porch.
As a working mom, Christa maintains a home office. One of her favorite spots — and one where she spends much of her time — is at her own work table. It appears her young daughters may follow in her artistic footsteps: "There are drawers on both sides of the table so that my girls each have a place to store their colored pencils," she says.